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Arkaroola

Bordered by the sinuous, ordered ranges of the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park to the south, the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is a spectacular, jumbled rocky chaos of massive granite and volcanic rocks, deeply incised with gorges and creeks.

Arkaroola Village

  • In the heart of the Sanctuary, it is South Australia’s most northerly destination resort in the Flinders Ranges. –    Lies in the curve of a mighty gum-tree lined creek 130km east of Leigh Creek.
  • Is purpose built to provide a range of comfortable visitor facilities and opportunities to learn about this extraordinary environment.
  • Is the gateway to this state’s most remarkable outback mountain environment, the 610 square kilometre Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

History

For thousands of years the land in and around Arkaroola was occupied by the Adnyamathanha people and it contains many places of special meaning to them.

  • The early European settlers originally called it ‘Mount Painter country’.
  • Pastoral leases were held in this country from the late 1850s but the dry, rugged country made grazing very hard.
  • The land was devastated during droughts. Lease holders changed often and in bad droughts they abandoned their land.
  • By the 1930s the country was afflicted by vermin: rabbits, dingoes, wild camels and goats.

Arkaroola Lease

  • In 1936, surrounding pastoralists offered the Greenwood family of Mt Serle  the leasehold over the Mount Painter country on condition that they rid it of vermin.
  • The worst pastoral land of three adjacent properties was amalgamated into the new lease in 1937.
    • The worst of course equated to the most mountainous region that was the most marginal sheep county and difficult to muster, and unneeded by the other three stations. The Greenwood lease officially became Arkaroola in 1937.
  • The pioneering Greenwood family were mineral prospectors and pastoralists.
  • They had been instrumental in finding minerals (some economic) all over the northern Flinders Ranges.  They understood the ‘boom and bust’ nature of this country where droughts were the norm and income needed supplementation by other means and they were always on the lookout for income from minerals to help out. They took up and fenced the lease and began ridding the area of feral animal pest species.

Sprigg Family buy Arkaroola

  • In 1968 the Sprigg family purchased Arkaroola.
  • The well known geologist and petroleum explorer Dr Reg Sprigg AO, who had been a student of Sir Douglas Mawson, removed all stock from the property as a conservation measure to allow the native plants the opportunity to recover from drought and grazing.
  • Sprigg is well known internationally as the original the discoverer of the famous Ediacaran fossil fauna at Ediacara in 1946 SW of Leigh Creek, and he was also instrumental in the founding of the Cooper Basin oil and gas fields, the set up of companies SANTOS and Beach Petroleum.

Arkaroola Sanctuary

  • The founding of the Arkaroola Sanctuary by Reg and his wife, Griselda to preserve this country, so desired by Mawson and himself, is one of his many important achievements.
  • Sprigg dreamt of funding Arkaroola’s conservation by tourism and education.
  • With approval from the Pastoral Board, the Spriggs soon took all stock off the land and began to plan the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary tourist project.
  • They made roads, developed a water supply, and re-established the native vegetation and animal populations.
  • The granite heartland could be accessed by visitors on 4WD tours where they could learn of Arkaroola’s environmental importance.
  • Vehicle access to this area was strictly controlled to stop the ingress of weeds, and the preserve the integrity of its mineral treasures.
  • The Spriggs set up a tourism enterprise of:
    • 50 motel units, cabins, and a caravan park
    • supporting restaurant, bar, shop, information centre and garage to service visitors.
    • A network of self drive tracks to places of interest
    • the private Ridgetop 4WD track through the centre of Arkaroola.

Uranium

  • In 1910 young ‘Smiler’ Greenwood, who was born in the late 1800s, found an unusual mineral in central Arkaroola while catching a goat for the family larder.
  • His father, WB Greenwood sent the rock to Adelaide for identification by the Department of Mines but as no one there knew what it was it was left in a cupboard.
  • Greenwood called for the assistance of Douglas Mawson (later to become Sir Douglas, of Antarctic fame) who was Reader in Geology of the University of Adelaide.
  • Mawson had just returned from visiting Madame Curie in Europe, and had been told to watch for unusual bright yellow or green radioactive minerals which was what Greenwood’s sample turned out to be.
  • This was followed by a few years of hard ‘pick and shovel’ mining in the area for radium, before mining was abandoned.
  • Exploration for uranium and rare earth elements continued sporadically during the late1960s/early 70s then again late 80’s/early 90’s with little success.
  • In mid 2000s another mineral exploration company was found to have illegally buried about 40 tonnes of low level RA waste at Mt Gee in the centre of Arkaroola, and another 20 tonnes in the Yudnamutana Gorge near Paralana Hot Springs.
  • After a five year battle and public controversy, it was finally agreed  that pursuits of mineral exploration and conservation were mutually exclusive.
  • The fight was settled in favour of the long term protection of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and the exploration company lost its mineral licence.
  • The South Australian Government proclaimed the Arkaroola Protection Act, 2012 which was enacted in April that year and Arkaroola’s long term protection against mining now seems assured.
  • The Arkaroola Protection Act includes a provision for consultation with the Adnyamathanha traditional owners over management of the land.

Arkaroola Education and Research Foundation

  • Arkaroola focuses on the enjoyment of visitors so that they can better understand and appreciate its special values via quality interpretation.
  • The Arkaroola Education and Research Foundation is set to continue the vision of Mawson and Sprigg for the geobiological education of secondary and tertiary students and academics into the future.

Resources

  • Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary – http://www.arkaroola.com.au/
  • Sprigg, Reg C. 1984. Arkaroola-Mount Painter in the Northern Flinders Ranges, S.A.: The Last Billion Years. Arkaroola: Arkaroola Pty. Ltd.
  • Parks SA – http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Flinders_Ranges_Outback/Vulkathunha-Gammon_Ranges_National_Park